The NFL regular season has just a few weeks left and the Tennessee Titans control their own destiny for the playoffs. A win tomorrow against the Miami Dolphins would clinch the AFC South. Mind you, Miami is on a seven-game winning streak they are looking to extend. Not only are the Titans looking at the AFC South but they can get the #1 seed back in the AFC with a win and a Chiefs loss in Cincinnati. If they are able to finish the regular season tied with the Chiefs, they would be the top seed courtesy of a 27-3 win against KC earlier this year.
But for Tennessee, these are not the only scenarios they are looking at. We remember October 31st and the game where Derrick Henry broke his foot. That is now eight weeks ago on a rehab that looks like six to 10 weeks. When head coach Mike Vrabel was asked about Henry’s rehab by Titans Online reporter Jim Wyatt, Vrabel answered “he’s still rehabbing.” Then, this past Monday, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that “Derrick Henry, it sounds like, maybe even gets back for Week 18, a chance to knock off some of the rust before they get into the playoffs after his significant foot injury that he had earlier on this season.”
Tennessee knows a Henry return would be huge even if it is an abbreviated return. The reason he is the one running back in the league that was in the MVP conversation is the impact he has on the offense. Even with all the time he has missed, Henry is sixth in the league in rushing yards with 937 yards. His presence in the backfield causes defenses to put eight and nine in the box virtually at all times. His ability to wear down defenses and hurt you in the fourth quarter has become a trademark of his.
Then, there is the effect he has on QB Ryan Tannehill. Without Henry, Tannehill manages his offense to the best of his abilities. Yes, some would say that he has had little to no weapons with injuries to Julio Jones and AJ Brown. But with Henry in the backfield, Tannehill just gets so much more done. Henry gives him so many options in the pocket, play-action, and giving Tannehill a chance to run the ball himself.
It has been running back by committee since Henry went down. For the most part, it has been Dontrell Hilliard, D’Onta Foreman, and Jeremy McNichols carrying the load. But that set of backs is not going to put a scare into NFL defenses. Yes, there have been occasions where they showed some promise, but it is just not the same as having Henry back there.
For Tennessee, it is what the return of a healthy Henry means for a deep playoff run. The first half of the season saw the Titans be one of the best teams in the league and there was a good chance that they could have finished the regular season with the best record in the NFL. A Henry return to go along with a healthy Brown and maybe, a semi-healthy Jones would make the Titans a force to be reckoned with in the postseason. Heck, if this works out the way they hope, a fresh Henry would be the most lethal weapon this NFL postseason.
With all this said, the most important thing for Tennessee is to be sure they have a fully healthy Henry back with them. Whether that is back in Week 18, or for the playoff run. With Henry good to go, this team has a shot at making a run at the Lombardi Trophy. Without Henry, they will be lucky to get past the first round of the playoffs.
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